Buying your first car is a rite of passage—granting the freedom of hitting the road whenever you want in a car that’s yours. To make your first car buying experience a dream and not a costly nightmare, our team of experts shares their tips for the best first cars for every kind of buyer.
For the urban first timer: a zippy hatchback
Nothing feels like more like first-car freedom than driving on the highway with your windows down. But power can be hard to come by on a budget, and performance engines are also illegal for new drivers in some states and territories (check your state government transport department to find out). Our answer? The compact hatchback for maximum driving fun without the bulk. Not only do hatches come in some of the funkiest styles and designs, they go from 0-60km/h just as quickly as many high-powered but bulkier sedans. They’re also ideal for stop-and-start city driving, easier to park, plus cheaper to fuel, service and register than their bigger brethren in most states and territories. Plus, given that your first car is usually something you’ll end up upgrading from down the track, hatchbacks tend to retain their value well.
For heading into the wild: a sporty SUV
Using your first car freedom to explore the great outdoors? If you’ve got visions of camping in your new ride at summer festivals or going off-road to see more of our great red land, an SUV is the ride for you. With compact SUV models alongside the bulky classics, there’s also an SUV for every adventurer and budget. Not only do they offer more space and all-wheel or four-wheel drive in many models, SUVs offer better visibility on the road and often better safety features than other vehicle categories, too. They’re ideal for making longer trips in spacious comfort, although you can expect to pay more for fuel, servicing and tyres than for smaller options.
Top picks: If you’re starting small, the classic Suzuki Jimny is a great off-roader in a tiny package. If you’re looking to go straight to the top of the 4WD game the Toyota LandCruiser is one of Australia’s top 4WD choices thanks to its legendary durability and easily accessible parts.
For making a statement: a ‘vintage classic’
Don’t get us wrong, a true vintage classic will typically be well beyond the budget of a first car buyer, with fully restored models of classics like your dad’s 1972 Ford Falcon GTHO selling for literally millions. But for those looking for nostalgia in their cheap first ride and a potential project from yesteryear, there are still options out there. For cars with plenty of vintage style, look for underrated classics that haven’t yet had their time, or pick a more recent classic that hasn’t hit cult status yet. There are plenty of late 1900s to early 2000s driving classics that are a much cheaper option and have plenty of long-term potential while still being fun to drive.
Top picks: The 1970’s produced plenty of Aussie classics that can still be found for cheap, such as the Holden Kingswood. Looking for a more modern dose of nostalgia and a taste of the luxe-life? You can get into a classic 1990s convertible Ford Capri and feel like you’ve joined the cast of Clueless for less than $10,000.
Ready to start the search for your first car? Gumtree has plenty of perfect first rides with used cars starting from less than $5,000.